Getting around in Myanmar is fairly easy, despite its large geographical size. The country boasts an extensive public transport network and expats can choose to drive a private vehicle, although this may be a brave choice. Road conditions in Myanmar are poor and the locals’ driving habits are infamous for being unsafe.
Public transport in Myanmar
Buses are the most affordable and fast way to travel in Myanmar, but they are not recommended for expats as the bus signs are not in English. Buses are also often overcrowded, and it’s common to see passengers sitting on the roof. While local buses may be in poor condition and rarely on schedule, Myanmar is introducing luxury express buses to cater for the tourist and expat market.
Adventurists who are looking to take the scenic route should look no further than Myanmar’s rail system. Trains are much slower and less reliable than buses, and they face a fair few issues, including mechanical problems and flooded tracks.
Expats looking to take a train ride should purchase a ticket from a station at least a day in advance. Myanmar Railways offers five seat classes – ordinary class, first class, upper class, standard sleeper and special sleeper. Though, upper class seats can be just as uncomfortable as ordinary class seats. Still, travelling by rail is an excellent way to interact with the locals and take in the country's majestic natural beauty.
Shared taxis and vans in Myanmar
Shared taxis and vans are less common in Myanmar than they are in other parts of Southeast Asia. They are pricier than buses and trains, though, as each seat is charged separately. Expats who are looking for an affordable and hassle free way to travel should consider this mode of transport because it drops you off directly at your stop. Shared taxis and vans only leave once they are full, and some service offerings have been tailored specifically for expats.
Taxis in Myanmar
Taxis are widely available in Myanmar at a reasonable cost. Local taxis have no meters, so expats must bargain and agree on the price with the driver before beginning the journey. There are also private cars with drivers that expats can hire for the day. Most newcomers prefer this since it’s the most comfortable and reliable way to get around Myanmar.
Grab, the ride-hailing service, is also accessible in Myanmar’s major cities. Ride-hailing services may be more convenient for expats who cannot speak Burmese, as it removes the language barrier element.
Driving in Myanmar
Driving in Myanmar is no easy feat for expats and locals alike, and the number of road accidents in the country has been on the rise since Myanmar opened up to commercial investment. The country’s road infrastructure is underdeveloped and was built for right-hand drive vehicles, whereas most cars in the country are left-hand drive. Thus, new arrivals may be safer and more comfortable hiring a driver before braving the roads themselves.
Expats who choose to drive will need to apply for a Myanmar driving licence at the Department for Road Transport and Administration. Those who hold an international driving permit or a licence from their home country can exchange it for a local licence without taking a written or practical test. They will simply need to fill in an application form, present two passport photos and pay the processing fee.
Domestic flights in Myanmar
Most expats prefer flying between Myanmar’s cities, as it is low-cost and a fast alternative. The country offers a few private and state-owned airlines, the latter of which should be avoided due to their low safety record. Major international airports include Yangon Airport, Mandalay International Airport and Nay Pyi Taw International Airport.